About a month ago, I did something I've never done before: I started lifting weights.
For the past six months, I've been focusing primarily on cardio at the gym. I did my 30-45 minutes of cardio, packed up my stuff, and left. And nothing about my body really changed.
I will admit to being mightily fed up lately when it comes to dieting and working out. It's not my favorite thing in the world to sweat it out for 45 minutes everyday, try to eat under 1300-1400 calories everyday, and not see results. For a whole year. I started following a bunch of "clean eating" instagram accounts (more on this in a minute) and decided to start adding weights to my routine. What did I have to lose?
After I started lifting weights, I started to notice changes in my body. I also started to feel like my work outs actually mattered. I amped up my cardio -- following HIIT guidelines by increasing the resistance on the cardio machine and not trying to go super fast -- which burns more calories as well. Finishing a work out with weight training made me feel like I was getting way more bang for my buck from my gym membership as well. I'd previously done body weight strength exercises, but I definitely feel those are not as effective as weight training. 30 squats with no added weight is great, but 50 squats with 10 or 20 pounds of weights is even better.
I used the app Fitocracy to track my reps and amount of weight I use. It assigns every work out a points value -- and even though the points don't really mean anything, I love being able to gain more and more points. It's kind of like getting a gold star sticker.
My basic work out, which I do about 4-5 times a week, is the following:
- Bench press -- 3 sets of 10 reps @ 10 lbs, 2 sets of 15 reps @ 20 lbs
- Bicep curls -- 3 sets of 10 reps @ 10 lbs, 1 set of 10 reps @ 20 lbs
- Dumbbell raise -- 3 sets of 10 reps @ 10 lbs, 1 set of 10 reps @ 20 lbs
- Shoulder press -- 3 sets of 10 reps @ 10 lbs, 2 sets of 10 reps @ 20 lbs
- Dumbbell squats -- 3 sets of 10 @ 10 lbs, 2 sets of 10 @ 20 lbs
- Dumbbell lunges -- 2 sets of 10 @ 10 lbs, 1 set of 10 @ 20 lbs
- Calf raises - 3 sets of 10 @ 10 lbs, 1 set of 10 @ 20 lbs
I'll occasionally add a few sets on the leg press machine (alternating 55 and 70 lbs), decline weighted crunches (10 lbs), or incline crunches (10 or 15lbs), depending on how tired I am.
As far as diet is concerned, I'm trying to eat more protein and healthy fats (like avocados and vegetable based fats, as opposed to animal fats) and slightly less carbs in general. I've noticed a weight loss of about 3 pounds in the past 2 weeks, with many of my clothes fitting better on my bottom half. I've also felt much more confident in general: it's easier to feel like a boss when you know you're going to lift weights at the end of the day!
I wanted to end on one more note about those clean eating instagram accounts I started following, the ones that spurred my starting to lift weights. I actually had to unfollow all of them -- I found them very triggering as far as negativity and bingeing. It's a very strange phenomenon to me that many clean eating -- and healthy living in general -- blogs and instagram accounts exhibit signs of pretty severe disordered eating. One account I followed in particular was a girl who used to be a binge eater; she'd lost probably 45-50 pounds and at 6'0", weighed less than me. She was very obsessively refused to eat sugar or "anything processed" (although she made her own protein bars out of extremely processed ingredients like liquid stevia and protein powder) and routinely ate the same meals everyday. While that helped her lose weight, I don't think it made her mentally or emotionally healthier. She also took constant photos of her butt and legs, usually while only wearing a thong and high heels. Which is fine once and a while, but it started to feel very exhibitionist, like she needed people to comment on how long her legs looked and how firm her butt appeared to be to be happy.
I don't believe deprivation is the key to losing weight, nor do I think it will ever make anyone happy. As another side note, stevia is actually a plant; it comes from plant leaves that are dried and ground up. So if you're using liquid flavored stevia, you are using an extremely processed ingredient. Which leads me to: not all processed food is inherently bad. Cheese is a highly processed food. I mean, cooking food is processing it! Milk is processed, and alternate milks, like almond, soy, rice, etc., are extremely processed. Don't even get me started on whey protein powder! If you think you're avoiding processed foods with whey protein powder, then I think you need to learn a thing or two about where protein powder comes from!
It sounds really boring and unhappy to me to spend the rest of my life eating steamed fish (beige, bland looking steamed fish at that) and spinach with no dressing for every other meal. To go without a Starbucks or a ice cream sundae once and a while. I mean, boring.
All I'm saying is: lift weights, move your body as much as you can, eat in moderation. It's okay to have some chips and salsa, or a cookie. Neither are going to kill you!